Most frequent travelers accumulate airline miles in order to score award flights to their destination. Yet in many cases, the airfare alone can represent less than half the cost of the trip. The next most expensive part of your vacation is the hotel room. But fortunately, travel gurus have found ways to land free lodging that are even easier that finding airline award seats.
1. Collect hotel points
Like the airlines, each major hotel chain offers loyalty points in return for stays. But thankfully, most make their free night awards much easier to redeem than airline awards.
For example, Marriott, Choice, and Wyndham hotels offer award nights with no blackout dates, while Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, and International Hotel Group’s Priority Club programs feature awards with no blackout dates or capacity restrictions.
Furthermore, it has become common practice for these programs to offer quarterly promotions with double or triple points after completing a designated number of paid stays or nights. Make sure to check with each program in order to register for these offers.
2. Best rate guarantees
Many hotel chains and online booking sites offer best rate guarantees. But since each site might offer a slightly different price, it can be easy to find a lower price elsewhere. For instance, Expedia offers a best rate guarantee that promises to return the price difference and offer a $50 coupon off of your next booking. And if you book a room that costs less than $50, it is free.
In fact, I have earned dozens of these coupons and have been able to make separate bookings at the same hotel for each night of my stay, using one coupon per booking. Another great best rate guarantee offer is from Intercontinental Hotel Group which includes Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and other brands. Its guarantee offers your first night free when you book directly with them and find a lower price on the same room at another web site within 24 hours. Of course, if you have booked only one night, your entire stay is free.
3. Sit for a timeshare pitch
There are offers abound for timeshare programs that include free night stays. The downside is that you will have to spend an hour or two of your vacation taking a tour of the property and fending off salespeople. Nevertheless, some people enjoy the tour and many will find this experience a small price to pay for a free stay at a luxury resort.
4. Blog about it
There was a time where only travel writers for major magazines were offered free stays during their “research” for their articles. Today, travel bloggers are highly sought after by the public relations firms that seek to drum up good reviews for the properties that they represent. In fact, I have even heard of free night stays being offered to those who have an extremely high ranking on Trip Advisor.
To begin, start your own travel blog and write about the places you go. After you have some good content posted, contact the visitor’s bureau where you will be traveling and tell them that you will be visiting as a travel blogger. If it works, they will offer you hosted accommodations with the understanding that you will highlight the property in your blog.
5. Earn a free night stay as a sign up bonus
Beyond hotel loyalty points, there are free night certificates that are available as sign-up bonuses for several major credit cards.
For example, the Hyatt card from Chase offers two free night stay certificates valid at any Hyatt property. This offer includes their premium hotels such as the Grand Hyatt properties in Paris and Milan that can cost over $1,000 a night. And unlike airline awards, there are no “fuel surcharges” or taxes that are levied per-night as hotel taxes are usually assessed on the rate paid. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card from Chase also features a free night stay after meeting the spending threshold, but unfortunately it has an annual fee that is not waived the first year.
By taking the time to explore all available tactics to secure a free hotel room, you can reduce your vacation costs far more than you might have thought possible.